James A. Rising

Entries categorized as ‘Policy’

Science and language

February 6, 2016 · Leave a Comment

One of the rolling banners at last year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union had a scantly-clad woman and the words “This is what most people think of as a ‘model'”. See, scientists have a communications problem. It’s insidious, and you forget how people use words and then feel attacked when you have to change how you speak.

I have a highly-educated editor working with me on the coffee and climate change report, and she got caught up on a word I use daily: “coefficient”. For me, a coefficient is just a kind of model parameter. I replaced all the uses of “coefficient” with “parameter”, but I simultaneously felt like it dumbed out an important distinction and wondered if “parameter” was still not dumbed down enough.

AGU has a small team trying to help scientists communicate better. I think they are still trying to figure out how to help those of us who want their help. I went to their session on bridging the science-policy divide, and they spent a half hour explaining that we have two houses of congress. Nonetheless, it is a start, and they sent us home with communication toolkits on USB. One gem stood out in particular:

So I will try to reduce the ignorance and political distortions of my devious communication plots, until I can flip the zodiac on this good response loop. Wish me luck.

Categories: Essays · Policy

Science and Policy Summer School

August 21, 2012 · Leave a Comment

This past June, a core group of the PhD students organised the first Science and Policy Summer School at the Columbia Global Center in Paris. With help from the Alliance Program and professors at both Columbia and Sciences Po, we were able to convene a group of 17 students from both sides of the Atlantic (Columbia, Arizona State, and the Universities of Minnesota and Southern California, and from Sciences Po, Pantheon-Sorbonne, École Polytechnique, École Normale Supérieure, and the Paris School of Economics) with 9 speakers (including Jeff Sachs, John Mutter, and Scott Barrett; Bruno Latour, Claude Henry, and Pierre-Henri Gouyon from Paris; Eric Maskin from Princeton; and representatives from the French government and NGOs).

The interdisciplinary, discussion-centered approach brought together a wide range of perspectives.  Discussions were lively, with students and professors engaging research and experience to better understand how to bridge the gap between science and policy-making. At the end of the week, student groups presented on the results of their own meetings and research.  Themes included scientific approaches to decision-making, South-South cooperation, global and national needs, the role of stakeholders, and international cooperation.  The participants left the summer school with renewed interest in continuing to discuss these topics and collaborate on reports and papers.

You can also read about the summer school in this article in the Sciences Po Newsletter, Global Horizons: http://www.sciencespo.fr/newsletter/actu/?id=2230.

We are hoping to continue this effort by having a second Science and Policy Summer School, and as the planning process begins, we hope to widen our community.  Contact me if you want to get involved.

Categories: Activities · Policy

Deliberative Network Proposal

June 3, 2012 · Leave a Comment

The world needs a global dialogue.  A wide variety of economic, environmental, and political problems demand a deeper involvement from civil society.  We need to invite new ideas, and to ensure that the best ideas are discovered, refined, and acted upon.

To make this discussion effective, we need new structures for deliberative problem solving which invite involvement, learning, commitment, and effective solutions.  Both international debate summits and scientific journals provide models, but they are too slow and too exclusive.  Wikipedia represents another vision of collaboration, but is too limited for effective deliberation.

The Deliberative Network is a response to this problem, by providing a new structure of social interaction.

Read the rest of the proposal and send me your comments!  Deliberative Network Proposal

Categories: Policy